Scotland!

Apologies for the lack of posts, despite all the adventures I’ve been having – I have been both busy and not really feeling the whole writing thing (which makes writing a blog post more tedious than fun and no one wants to read tedious writing now, do they).

This is being written in the coach on the way to Heathrow Airport. That’s right, I’m coming home (cue music: “I’m coming home, I’m coming home, tell the world that I’m coming home….”)! It looks to be a great day for flying so I’m hoping for no delays at this end so I can have a slightly more relaxed time in Dubai than I did last time! That was hectic… But it is nice here today. One thing that is nice here is that on hot days, the air is warm enough so that you can sit in the shade to escape the worst heat but you won’t get cold. The upside to having a fully functioning ozone layer, I suppose.

There is so much to catch up on, including a 5 day trip to Scotland! I can’t remember exactly where I left off last time so I’ll start with Scotland and go back and fill in the blanks at a later date if I need to. Anyway, to Scotland!

The plan to go to Scotland began a couple of months ago as a “wouldn’t it be cool if…”  moment, when I read an article about a café run in the highlands by a kiwi. Now, I haven’t yet made it to that café as my plans changed slightly from there but it is still on my to do list, as long as it stays open! My plan was to use my travel scholarship I won through Orbit to pay for as much as possible, which ended up working quite well. It didn’t cover all of it but enough to make it possible! Eventually I also managed to get my friend (referred to her as ‘A’) to tag along as well, which was even better 😀

** I am now writing this in Heathrow Departure lounge, waiting until 9pm local time when my boarding gate will be shown **

The train up to Scotland was quite busy, especially in the middle of the journey where there were several people who had to stand. Thankfully I had a reserved seat so was able to relax and enjoy the view rather than stand. And what a view! I didn’t get many photos because photos from a moving train with a not-super-duper camera isn’t the best, but that didn’t stop me enjoying it myself! It was fun messaging Mum where I was at each stop as she would be looking them up online and sometimes send fun facts about where I had just passed through (for example, did you know that the only Formula One driver to be disqualified for driving too slow was from Derby?!). My trip was with CrossCountry Trains and I really did go cross country. I started in Exeter which is in the South West of England, went up northwards through Bristol, Birmingham, Sheffield then across to York, Durham, Newcastle, Berwick upon Tweed and Edinburgh (South East Scotland) before cutting across to Glasgow then finally to Aye (South West Scotland). So I covered a lot of ground in one day! A was on another train that went basically up the west coast that took less time but involved more transfers. We were both pretty sick of trains by the end of the day, though! Having met up in Ayr again, we walked to our accommodation, enjoying the stretch and the architecture and the fact that the sun was still up! We were staying in a lovely little B&B about 20 min walk from the trainstation and town.

In the morning we had arranged to meet up with a friend of my Mum’s from China. She showed up around Ayr a little (it is a little place so there wasn’t much to see, hehehe), including a walk on the beach in which A decided to go paddling. Mum’s friend suggested that we go to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum which was in a neighboring village and that ended up being a really good idea! We left her to go to another Robert Burns festival in another direction, agreeing to meet up for dinner afterwards. There were a few bumps in getting there, including the bus timetable, google maps and the actual buses all having slightly different ideas about when they were meant to be, and not knowing where we were to ask the driver to stop at the right place but thankfully he remembered we had said that was where we were going so stopped to let us off at the right place. There are two parts to the museum, connected by a path called “Poet’s walk”, decorated with little statues depicting different things from Robert Burns’ poems and songs. The first part is the cottage in which Robert Burns was born and spent the first 7 years of his life. The man there was very to tell us all about the different parts of his life from what schooling Robert would have had, to what they would have been allowed to do on a Sunday. The other part was a museum looking at his adult life, his (many) children, poems and ideas. There were lots of points where you could sit down and listen through a phone-like speaker to one of his songs or poems. There, again, we had a lady take us around to tell us about the different parts of the museum and, maybe, a little more information than we would have got just by looking ourselves. Finally we followed the path further to the Robert Burns monument and the Brig o’ Doon (Brig = Bridge in Scots, Doon is the name of the river). The Brig ‘o Doon features in one of Burns’ poems called Tam o’ Shanter (Shanter being a village nearby), in which Tam, coming home late in the pouring rain from the s in Ayr after a market day, disrupts some witches in the local abandoned kirk, or church. Upon being discovered, the witches chase Tam down the road and he knows the only way to be safe is to cross the keystone on the bridge over the river Doon, as witches cannot cross running water. Unfortunately, just as he was crossing the bridge, one of the witches reaches him and grabs his horses tail! The poor beast jumps forward, ripping out its own tail, to get Tam to safety.

Dinner was really good, a mixture of British and Chinese food, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It has been too long since I had real Chinese food, so the trip to Scotland was well worth it, just for that meal and the conversation afterwards! There are some things that I think you have to experience, like living in a foreign country and having to learn the local language to survive, to be able to really understand. In situations like that, being able to find someone who has experienced it too to talk to is an amazing feeling and, as I discovered again this afternoon (ooo, suspense), even if you don’t know each other well, you can still find so much to talk about just based on that. That evening, we ended up talking until almost 11pm at which point I suddenly realised it was as dark as it was going to get and A and I should probably be heading back to our accommodation! We decided to catch the bus (driver let us on even though it was a night bus and we had day passes, and let us off when we realised we missed our stop) rather than walk in a strange city, in the dark, late at night.

Sunday was our last day in Ayr and, after much deliberation, we decided to go to a church we walked past into town. I’m really glad we did go in as from the moment we got there, they were all so friendly and happy to see us! In the morning tea after the service, we had so many people come and ask us where we were from, why had we decided to come in (and very happy when we said we just walked in off the street), and apologising because we weren’t able to meet the normal minister because he was away at present. One couple offered us a lift to the train station, as well, as it was raining, which was very kind! A and I both agreed that we had really enjoyed the service (Church of Scotland, with some hymns that I recognised from growing up in Blenheim) and meeting the people there, as well. In Glasgow, we dropped our bags and went on adventure in search of a castle to explore. We eventually managed to find one, a confusing bus ride later, and it was perfect! It was free entry, with just a few signs up saying what it was for, more of a ruin in some ways but still strong enough to go up one of the towers to get the view from the top! I wasn’t a fan of the ladders but the view was worth it. The wind was super strong, making my hiking trousers make that cool flag-whipping-in-the-wind sound and nearly knock us both over. While we were there is started to rain and we decided it didn’t look like a passing shower so we would head back rather than try to wait it out. That lead to another confusing bus ride, as the bus we caught was on a loop, so we went back past the same place what felt like a couple of times, stopped at the outer terminal, then headed back into town. We were fine with the loops, though, as we had no time constraints and it was a drier way to see the city than walking!

Monday was The Tour, the reason we both really wanted to go to Scotland (apart from it being, you know, Scotland). It was our day tour to Loch Ness. The driver was really cool (Timberbush Tours, driver Kenny), making jokes and telling stories about the area we went through. The tour went from Glasgow, up along the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, past Glencoe and Loch Leven, spied Ben Nevis from Fort William, then followed the Caledonian Canal up past Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and finally up along Loch Ness. We dropped some people at Urquhart Castle so they could look around, before going further up to where the visitor center and cruises were. We decided to go on the hour long cruise around part of Loch Ness, past the castle to get a view of it from the water and see more of the loch. Despite the wind and rain it was a really cool trip – whether you believe in Nessie or not, Loch Ness is an incredible body of water. It isn’t the deepest, or the widest, loch in Scotland, but the volume of water held in it is the largest. It holds more water than all the lakes in England combined. As for Nessie, there have been stories around about a great monster/large fish of varying descriptions around for thousands of years. St Columba is said to have commanded a monster from the lake to stop terrorising the people on the shores. Maybe that was Nessie? But if it was, is she still alive? Is she even a she? The visitor center and the cruise both milked the legend for all they could, saying things like “if you keep an eye on the radar, you’ll see just how deep the loch is. You’ll also see funny readings from fish passing underneath. And who knows who else you might catch a glimpse of?”

**Back in NZ at this point, for writing, but waaayyyyy behind…. my bad 😛 **

After leaving Loch Ness we went up to Inverness and back down the other side, through the eastern highlands, stopping off once for a refreshment break, then back to Glasgow. It was a pretty full on day, lots of sitting on the bus but also lots of things to see and hear. Most of the time, if the driver wasn’t talking, he would either play Scottish music, or a recording with stories about the history of where we were passing through, which were really interesting.

There were some good quotes and stories from the day, with my favourites from the driver being:
“There’s a big yellow ball in the sky, I think you people from outside of Scotland call it the sun. If it does scare you, don’t worry, it won’t be there for long.”
(About believing in Loch Ness) “If you don’t believe St Coumba, who will you believe?”
We also had “Nessie Revenge” because most people on the bus we not open believers of the Loch Ness Monster.
Nessie Revenge One: The driver sang a verse from a Scots ballad.
Nessie Revenge Two: Playing ‘Grandad’ music (“Listen and weep”)
Nessie Revenge Three (“No one survives Nessie Revenge Three”): Lady Gaga, Bad Romance. (“Emergency exits don’t work when the vehicle is in motion.”)

A couple of interesting facts (well, I found them interesting, anyway):

Ben Nevis = Mountain (Ben) with its head in the clouds (Nevis) – it is the highest mountain in Scotland.

The Glencoe massacre, while not the largest massacre in Scottish history (looking at either what the government did to the clans or what the clans did to each other), it is as well known and infamous as it is because it was committed while the Campbell’s were under the hospitality of the MacDonald’s. Highland hospitality was a bit thing – if word got out that a clan had denied hospitality to someone seeking it, they could basically be driven out. And the weather in the Highlands could be so viscous the MacDonald’s of Glencoe saw nothing suspicious in a group of Campbell’s and soldiers seeking hospitality in their camp. This hospitality was betrayed, however, when the MacDonald’s were slaughtered, some in their sleep, some killed by exposure as they tried to get away. Highlanders have long memories and, apparently, having the name Campbell in those parts still isn’t a good way to make friends.

There is way more that I could say but the best way to hear all the stories: Go to Scotland and hear them for yourself 😀 hehehe

On our final day in Scotland, after having breakfast at Witherspoons’, we went for more of a wander around town before catching our trains back to Exeter. We were on separate trains again because I had a set route I could go on and she was wanting to get back to town earlier to say goodbye to some friends before summer.

While we had been in Scotland I had been asked by someone back home to be part of a drama when I got back in the country, so I spent some of the time on the train learning my lines for that (spoiler alert: While catching up with a friend before going to Heathrow I leart that my character had been changed so I didn’t need to learn those lines after all, I had new ones to learn 😛 ).

But that is a story for another post. This one has been too long in coming anyway!!

 

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St Ives, not St Ive

St Ives
As misleading as it may seem, this photo is of neither St Ives nor St Ive, and they really are two different places. Both in Cornwall, too! Just remember, if you want the beach, you need the sea 😉
Arriving back late from my few days in Dover, then getting up to go to St Ives for the day was more doable than I expected. I think sitting on the bus for two and a half hours each way helped it not seem like I was doing too much too quickly. I didn’t know anyone else on the trip so had a spare seat next to me, which was taken by a girl in a group of three friends, with the other two sitting in front. Using the logic that it was better to say something before the bus started moving so it wasn’t so awkward if anything needed to be said later in the 2.5 hours of close proximity, I said hello. It worked out quite well because, by the time we got to St Ives, I had been invited to go around with them for the day rather than being by myself! All three knew had met at school, in Tanzania, although one was Greek, one Dutch and one German, all studying in the UK. I somehow found myself spending the day with a group of TCKs! 😀 That was quite cool.
St Ives is well known for beautiful beaches and the weather certainly continued its good show, resulting in quite a while of just staring at the amazing blue sea and sky.

One tip though: if you want an ice cream on the foreshore, have cash. Hardly any of the ice cream places take card payments, and there are no ATMs. There are ATMs further back in the center of town but not right down by the beach.

After a relaxing afternoon in the sun, not getting too sunburnt, building the required beach trip sandcastle, it was back on the bus for another 2.5hours.

Friday was amazingly slow. The afternoon was spent making an amazing cake with a friend. It started as a batch of cookies. But… why go to the effort of making individual cookies, when you can just make one big one and then cut off the amount of cookie you want? Then came the banana cake. We only had a little cake tin, so split the mixture in two to make sure it didn’t go everywhere in the oven. Hmmm… we could stack them to make a banana layer cake. What could we put in the middle? I know! Cookie!! 😀 Okay, but what goes between the cookie and the cakes? Homemade peanut butter and jam caramel, of course. It sounds really weird, but it actually tasted amazing!! I don’t think we would be able to do it again, though, there were some, erm, questionable measuring and substitutions made. Neither of us had measuring spoons or cups. But still, the brave people who tried it enjoyed it, as did we!

We were making it for a desert as we were going to another OODS friends place for dinner. I don’t feel the need to go into great detail about the food and exactly what we did or anything, but I will mention that it was one time when I was happy to be eating vegetarian. See, one friend only eats fish and beef, the other eats fish and chicken, and I eat both beef and chicken but not fish. Yep.

Big Church Day Out

This was an incredible weekend. It started with a few bumps, like not being able to book a ticket on the same train as the others who traveling at the same time, and then one of their trains being cancelled so they had to wait for the next one, and the campsite having hardly any reception so getting in touch with the group already there being quite difficult. However, once we had all arrived and the tents were all pitched, things went amazingly smoothly. What is Big Church Day Out (BCDO)? A massive christian music festival. 23 thousand people, some camping, some just there for the day; two days of music; multiple stages; big names in christian music. Groups like Worship Central, Hillsong, Casting Crowns, Newsboys, Switchfoot, Bethel Music, Rend Collective, people like Stuart Townend and so many more! My favourite was probably either Rend Collective in general, or seeing Casting Crowns perform their song Thrive which has been something of a theme song for my time here in England. It was all held on a property called Wiston House which has extensive grounds, perfect for having thousands of people pour in from all over the country for the weekend once a year. From midday each day, the stages would kick off and have back to back performances until about 8:30 when the final couple of performances took place on the main stage until 10pm. After that, people who weren’t camping would leave and those of us who were had extra events we could go to, such as a campfire or comedy evening, until midnight when people would drift to their tents to get as good a sleep as they could before it started over again! The final night (some people stayed Friday night as well, so for them it was the third night but it was only my second) there was a thunder storm which, being in a tent, was pretty impressive. While walking back to the tent, we went too sure which way to go (neither of us had a torch) until a flash of lightning lit up the whole campsite for us momentarily. See, everything has its uses! 😉

Leading up to the weekend I had been increasingly more nervous about going because it seemed the main people I had been wanting to go with weren’t going after all. It turned out that those who did go were still ones I wanted to get to know more before leaving and I had such a fantastic time that after I arrived, there were no regrets. Apart from maybe booking my train earlier, so I could reserve a seat. Catching a train to London on the first day of a long weekend = no spare seats = sitting on a backpack in the corner for a few hours.

Totnes

While all I wanted to on Monday, travelling home, was sleep and not stand up any more, Tuesday I was on the move again. The original plan was Cleeve Abbey but eventually we decided that Totnes Castle was slightly easier to get to. The trip started with watching my friend run across the train station to jump on the train just in time – nice to get the blood pumping before a day out!

As well as going to the castle, we looked around the town a bit too. We had fun looking around bookshops and charity shops and the like, including me buying my first sugar mouse. It was very nice, I enjoyed sucking on it while reading a book in the church was looked around. While I was reading, my friends was asking the ladies at the church cafe if they knew of her great aunt, as she was trying to find her. They were very helpful, getting their phone book from next door, even showing us the way to where one of them thought she might live. Unfortunately none of the number were the right one, and she was out when we knocked on the door. So we thanked the church lady and said we would go to the castle and come back later to try again.
The castle wasn’t as elaborate as some of the others I’ve been to but it was still cool to see. The main tower in the centre of the Shell Keep (stone wall at the top of the earth mound) isn’t there anymore, but the shell keep is, and you can still walk around the top of it. The main courtyard (known as the bailey) wasn’t all that big but was the site of most of the accommodation, on site storage, workshops, stables and kitchens to keep the castle going. Having been built by the Normans, the castle was already old and falling into disrepair by the Tudor era and is now basically just the bailey outer wall, the mound (or motte) and shell keep. You still get an impressive view of the surrounding town, which is what it was built for, though.

When we went back through town, we had a decision to make: cream tea, or go back to try and talk to her great aunt. We decided trying to talk to her was first on the list, so back we went. As soon as we arrived we could tell she was home because the front door was open. When we knocked, a lovely lady came to the door and we enjoyed talking to her, but unfortunately while her first name was the same as the one we were looking for, her last name was not. So that was a bit disappointing, but we went and relaxed in the sun at the pub instead.

The final adventure of the day came when we decided to make our way back to Exeter so I could go to ECU Central for the last meeting of the year. We found the train station without too much difficulty but found that the train we had been waiting for had been delayed so long that it was no longer the next train!  I messaged the people I go to ECU with to let them know I would be late but was still planning on getting there, and settled down to wait 45 minutes for the train. It came along and we got back to Exeter fine, no problem there. Only, ECU started at 7:30 and it was currently 7:25, and it took 25 minutes to walk from that station to my place, another 10-15 to get to where Central was this week )thankfully it was on campus in town, not the main campus up the hill), and I wanted to pick up some gifts I had for people, too. Solution: I would catch the train from St Davids (where we were) to St James (near my hall) to save time! This only works if the trains line up right, but at that time of day they did! So I was back and leaving my place, having picked up the gifts, by 7:45, and got to ECU before the main speaker started at 8pm! I was quite pleased with that timing, I must admit 🙂

Yesterday was a quieter day but today I am off to Cirencester in the Cotswolds for the weekend with OODS which should be a lot of fun! They are meeting for breakfast first, so once I finish writing this I’ll head on down to St Davids again to join them.

Dover! (Mon-Wed)

(Wednesday)
I’m writing this on the train from London Paddington to Exeter St Davids – as I don’t have a window seat, I figure I might as well write while my computer has power, and if it runs out of power, I can continue reading like I was on the one from Dover Priory to London St Pancras. Yes, that was the excitement for the first part of this week: Dover! (and surrounding area)

Here is what I wrote while sitting on the beach, on Monday:
Dover! I arrived this afternoon after catching the train in from Exeter, via London It was really funny in London St Pancras. I asked a guard where my train was and he was like “Let me see your ticker, you might need to leave the station… yea, about 20 minutes walk that way.” I’m slightly confused but ready to believe him because I have no clue, when suddenly: “I’m just joking, don’t worry, your train is just upstairs, Miss. Platform 11 or 12.” Laughing, I told him he was mean but thanked him for his help. I was then further entertained on the train by the young family – a mother and her two young daughters – who were heading home from holiday. If I can be as good as her at keeping two young kinds entertained without completely disturbing the rest of the carriage, I’ll be happy.  I would take that family again over the hen party on the train from Barnstaple on Saturday any day! After checking in, I went and explored Dover Castle and I love it! It is so well looked after and restored‼ They have redecorated the rooms after the styles they may have been originally. I bought an overseas visitors pass rather than a normal ticket (I can get into any English Heritage site at no extra price for the next 9 days) but it would have been worth the £17.50.
Tea was chips on the beach in the sun, but the sun has moved so I’m in shadow now. It is still really nice and most people have left so it is quieter now which is also nice. I have a great view of the cliffs, but out to sea is hazy and there is a smell of pollution in the air which isn’t quite so nice. I think, I wouldn’t want to live in Dover, but Dover Castle is definitely on the “see again” list. The beach at Dover is quite steep which is good for the ships and rowers and swimmers – it gets deep quick and the sea wall seems to do a good job of keeping the harbour calm. Because the castle is at the top of the cliffs, the view at the moment of the sun setting on it is stunning. There is a paraglider above the castle – that would be a view‼ I think I’ll have to either put on a sweatshirt or move – the sun has taken its warmth.

Using my Overseas Visitors Pass, I have now seen four Heritage sites, which have each been amazing in their own ways.
Dover Castle is stunning in the way that large castles that are still solid and mostly in one piece are stunning. It is so easy to imagine people being there, using it as a fortress.

Deal Castle has really cool architecture. It was commissioned by Henry VIII who had it built (along with two others, Walmer and Sandown) to defend the thinnest stretch of channel from the French (and, you know, other people threatening to invade). Its shape, seen from the ground, is circular, following the shape of gun towers which was found to be more effective for the use of cannons. From above, however, it is clear these circular towers have been put to good use. Any paragliders soaring over Deal Castle would look down on the Tudor Rose.
You can also walk around under the outer wall of the castle . An interesting experience, especially where it is not very well lit, but not one for the claustrophobic. The seeming continuous changing direction yet always going the same way (due to the in and out shape, where two circles join, yet always walking clockwise) is enough to make you feel like you’ll be circling endlessly. It’s just a small castle, only meant to be a fortress not a permanent home for a family, but the perimeter is still a decent length.

Walmer Castle and Gardens. Wow. As the residence of the Lord Warden, head of the Cinque Ports, the rooms open to the public have been kept in the various states, depending on the Lord Warden they have information about. For example, one room is kept set up in the way it was when it belonged to Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington. Another room was set up to commemorate the Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother, from when she was Lord Warden, along with several of the other Wardens. It wasn’t originally as comfortable, however. Not until the niece of one of the Lord Wardens came to live there and commissioned the gardens. Now, there are 10 hectares of gardens in different styles. The woodland path trail was mainly left to do its own thing, apart from the path being kept very clear and level, whereas the main green was neatly manicured, not the smallest plant where it didn’t belong.

Richborough Roman Fort and Amphitheatre was the oldest of the four places (I think “Roman Fort” gave that way….). It also has a funny story attached… well, you’ll probably think it is funny, and once I realised what I had done I admit I found it kind of amusing. First, I have never claimed to be observant. Sometimes I remember odd little details, but in general, if you ask me for any real detail about a place, I will struggle to tell you. I have also been known not to see someone walking towards me until they say hello, even if I have known them for a long time. Anyway, the story. I was walking from town to the Fort. Google said about 40 minutes. The main path was along the road but even once the footpath ran out, it was a pretty quiet road so that didn’t bother me. I was following the signs so I knew I was on the right path. Then, however, I saw a footpath that followed the river. The road looked like it was about to cross the train tracks and join with another road, making it busier. The river path looked pretty good to me. I quickly checked my phone map and saw that in following the river, I should pass pretty close to the Fort, so as long as I can see it, I’ll know where to go. Solid. Well, until I lost sight of the road. See, another smart thing about this river path was it was the most direct route, whereas the road took two sides of the triangle. Physics. But that mean the road was out of sight behind the trees. But the river path is nice and wide and the river is pretty, the sun is warm and I’m enjoying my walk. I stop and take a photo of one point that reminds me of the river bank I grew up walking my dog along. I continue walking, go around a gate that looks like it is only there to stop vehicles – still easy walking access. And the path gets narrower. And more overgrown. And seems to stay that way… And then widens again, with some house boats and things tide up along the bank. And then gets narrower. And then I almost think it has fully stopped when I see it is still there, going across a small bridge that is almost drowned in weeds and grasses. But what is that I see not far off? A railway crossing! I knew I wanted to be on the other side of the rails but there had been no way I had seen to do that earlier. From there, I followed the path to where it joined what looked like a driveway. About 100 meters up this driveway, I see this:

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Yep, that’s the fort! Only…. It’s the back of the fort….. And there is still a fence in the way. So I follow the fence around. By the time I get to the gate, I have been walking for about an hour, in direct sun most of the way, and I am convinced there must be a faster way than having to walk all the way around the site to get in. Well, my answer was given to me on the walk back. I followed the main drive down to where it connected to the road, followed the road toward town and, hey look, a pedestrian railway crossing to a path by the river. That’s odd, I must have walked right by it, within 10 meters, but it wasn’t the one I used and I had no recollection of it being there. Upon closer inspection, the spot became awfully familiar. Remember when I stopped to take a photo? Of the river and river bank? Not the road? Yea. There.  Be quiet, Andrei, I can hear you laughing. The rest of you can be quiet, too. I told you I was unobservant. From there it was a nice quiet walk back into town, to the other side of town to the train station. From the Fort to the station took: 45 minutes. Seeing as the station was five minutes beyond the centre of town where I started my walk to the Fort, I reckon that was good going.

But why did I need to take a train? Well, my friends, I was staying, at this point, in Dover. But this little walk took place in Sandwich. Yes, I was a Chick-in Sandwich. (I can’t take credit for that one – thank my Dad ) But seeing as I’m a Tucker, being a Chick-in Sandwich shouldn’t be too surprising, really‼ Hehehe

To get to Deal and Walmer I had caught the train, then walked from one to the other before catching the train back to Dover. Since I got back about 5:30pm and I knew from the night before that there would be plenty of daylight until about 9pm, I decided to go for a walk. So off to the cliffs I went! I set off after 6, walked for an hour, stopped, sat down, walked an hour back and collapsed on my bed not long after 8:30. The view though. Those things are HIGH! And there are so many different paths along them, some along high sections of cliff, others along lower parts, right near the steep drop into the sea. And so many birds and rabbits, all around the place! The air wasn’t clear enough for me to clearly see the French coast but it was fun watching the ships come in and knowing it was just there. It was so close that my phone thought I was in France and so wouldn’t connect to the internet because I hadn’t turned roaming on. Well done.

So yes, that was my whirlwind visit to the Kentish Coast! Tomorrow (Thursday) I am off to the other side of the southern coast, to St Ives! Tonight I’ll be sleeping in my own bed again which will be nice, even if I get back late and have to be up early again tomorrow to get to campus to catch the bus! I wanted to write this out before tomorrows adventure so I would remember everything – I’ll probably post again after tomorrow, before this weekends trip to the Big Church Day Out! (I have a full on final month here, believe me.)

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Took my longer to post this than I though, St Ives was great, will prob give it a quick mention in BCDO post after the weekend

And Done!

The last month, since Dixon left, have been pretty full on. I have had my sister visit, exams to study for, exams to sit, and now it is all done!

The time with my sister was really nice, even if it was short. She was in the country for a conference in London but arrived a few days earlier and came through to Exeter to spend a couple of days with me. We stayed in a little B&B which was really sweet, the couple who ran it were lovely and really interesting to talk to over breakfast. She arrived on the Monday, and on the Tuesday we went…… Wedding Dress Shopping.
Now, basically anyone who knows me at all knows I don’t really wear dresses. And I don’t really shop. So you can probably imagine my trepidation at the prospect of shopping … not just shopping but dress shopping …. not just dress shopping but Wedding dress shopping!!! Yea, I was a bit nervous 😛
To my surprise, it was actually quite a bit of fun! :O The first place we went, the lady was really helpful and on to it but in a relaxed friendly kinda way, which helped me not to focus on the shopping side of it but on the “oh wow, I’m actually getting married and these actually look really good, I think I can actually do this.” So that was nice! Having McDonalds for lunch, between shops, was also useful in helping the day feel a tad more normal (if normal is a good word for being in England, with my sister who I hadn’t seen for months, looking at potential dresses to wear once…. 😛 ). So yes, seeing her was definitely a highlight to help the next couple of weeks not seem quite so bad!

Now, exam wise, I don’t really have much to complain about, really. 3 exams, over 5 days, with a day off in between each, and all I needed to do was pass. But (and there is always a but when it comes to exams) I am a perfectionist and ‘just passing’ doesn’t sit right with me. Especially for the modules I really enjoyed, like Nuclear and Soft Matter. So I was trying to still get a good amount of study in each day, without burning out, and while planning my months holiday at the end of it all. I ended up studying in the cafe above the book shop down the road several times, and a couple of times up at campus, because my room was all I would see and I was starting to feel the effects of cabin fever. The exams themselves weren’t too terrible, really, the first one was possibly the best one, Soft Matter wasn’t bad either but not as good as I would have liked to do for level of enjoyment I got out of the course. Principles of Theoretical Physics was, well, about as expected. Not great but I think I passed (which is about how everyone else did, too). Now I just need to wait for the results to come out sometime next month, to see how I really did!

The first few days after my final exam (which was Monday morning), I spent catching up with people who I hadn’t seen properly for awhile, having lunch with other physics students, and at the beach in the rain.

The beach was amazing fun, although I wasn’t optimistic enough to take my togs. I should have though, once you adjusted the water really was quite lovely. Refreshing.

One good thing during exams was the OODS Revision walks. During terms 1 and 2, the Saturday walks are normally between 6-11 miles with the norm being about 8ish, taking up most of the day. During term 3, when exams are, they are only in the afternoon and no more than 5 miles. Relaxing walks to take a break from study, rather than a day excursion. One was right after I had an exam and was exactly what I needed (along with my traditional mini chocolate bar).

Between going to the beach in the rain and the second Revision Walk I went on, I went back to visit Dixon’s Aunt and Uncle in Cornwall. That is where the feature photo is from this time: A little village on the hill in north Devon called Clovelly. We also went to the beach in Bude – it’s almost like it is summer, with all these beach trips!
It was really good to see them again, they were even brave enough to have my violin come with me!

 

Saturday and Sunday night were spent watching the Shrek movies with an OODS friend (who is probably going to read this 😛 Hi!). Today things got really exciting but that deserves its own post another day, so I’ll leave you all hanging 😉

Holiday Part Two

Carlisle! We spent five days up north with the aunt of the other side of Dixon’s family.
We arrived the Good Friday and on the Saturday we went on a trip across the boarder into Scotland. Gretna Green was only 9 miles from where we were staying so it wasn’t a long trip – it was an odd feeling to one moment be in England, the next in Scotland. Even while living in China, I had never crossed a land border before.


Our second day in Carlisle was spent doing as little as possible – the non-stop sightseeing over the previous almost two weeks had left us both feeling exhausted and in need of a quiet day.
We made up for it on day three, however, when – after taking the two dogs for a walk at the park – we all went to Whitehaven. It’s a nice little place right on the coast. I wasn’t a fan of the height of the sea wall but the view from the top was nice! We then went to another miniature steam railway. This one was longer than the last one – 40 minutes each way rather than 15. Dixon didn’t get to ride up the front this time but I think he enjoyed the trip all the same. It was a lovely day for it, if a bit cold in the shade. On the drive home we went through the Lake District which was really cool. It is one part of the country I have really wanted to get to and it would be nice to get there again before I leave!

Tuesday the two of us explored central Carlisle more, going to the Cathedral, Castle and picking up our tickets to London from the train station. We did consider a highropes course in town but decided it wasn’t as good as the one at Adrenaline Forest so we would just wait until we are both back in NZ and go there again 😛 Instead we decided to go see Fast and Furious 8, which we both enjoyed.

Wednesday was the day of the Roman Ruins, going to Vindolanda near a section of Hadrian’s Wall. It is the site of a Roman fort and town that they are still excavating. The outlines of some of the building are very clear, and the wall around the main fort, too. Not too far away was a Roman Army Museum with a 3D movie about the forts and the wall and the people who guarded it. It was a well put together museum with lots of different audio visual displays and maps and things showing when different parts were built and what life would have looked like for different classes of people. Well worth the visit! As that was our final full day with Dixon’s aunt and her fiance, that evening we went bowling! It was lots of fun although none of our scores were anything near record breaking 😛 Dixon won the first game, I won the second but he got the highest combined score. His aunt was giving us a pretty good run – I’m sure she rigged it at one point because there was one whole round where she was the only person who got any pins down at all! She got 9 down or something, the rest of us just got gutter balls! Still don’t know how she did it 😛

The next morning it was off to London again. The train from Carlisle to London was a lot faster than the one from Barnstaple to Carlisle – 3 hours rather than 7. Shorter distance, fewer stops and no transfers does that 😛 The original plan for Friday was going to be the Warner Bro’s Studio Tour but we didn’t get it sorted out soon enough. Instead, it was off to the London Zoo! That was a lot of fun – a long day and a lot of walking but seeing all the animals and hearing a couple of the talks about them was really interesting! We each bought a soft toy – his a giraffe, mine a tiger – as our memento. Originally they were going to be clip on tails but it was eventually decided that we would get more out of a soft toy than a tail 🙂

And then, it was our last day in London! What was there left to do?! I’m glad you asked 😉
Westminster Abbey (it was open this time 😀 ). the giant Lego shop, M&M world, Shaftesbury Avenue, China Town, and in the evening: WICKED! It was an amazing show to end an amazing holiday 😀  😀 😀 😀 The whole day was amazing – seeing inside the Abbey (including graves of Isaac Newton, Elizabeth I and Mary I, Mary Queen of Scots, all sorts of people), looking around four floors of chocolate and two floors of lego creations, it was incredible. Between having hot chocolates in a cafe on Shaftesbury Avenue and going to the theatre we packed up bags and watched another Fast & Furious. While we were in London we watched two a day to get through the first 6, in part because we could so why not and part because I had only seen 6, 7 and 8, not any of the earlier ones and that needed fixing 😛

Finally, it was time. The three weeks were up, the sights had been seen, the planes and bus were waiting to be caught. I went with Dixon to Heathrow and waited with him until he had to go through security before going to catch my bus back to Exeter.

I’ll admit, it’s been odd being back, for a number of reasons. Not having any more classes left is a weird feeling, I have to motivate myself to get study done and actually leave my room each day. It is really quite because not everyone is back yet and I’m not sure how back people will be – with only exam study to do, some people may prefer to stay at home rather than come back before hand. And after constantly having someones company for 3 weeks, it was really odd sitting in my room, by myself. But hey, that’s not a bad thing – to be able to put up with him for three weeks of traveling is a good sign, right? 😉

 

Holiday Part One

If I was to go into detail of everything I have done in the last three weeks, you would be reading for hours and I would be writing for even longer! Instead, I’ll just give a brief outline 😛

On the 3rd, I caught the bus to Heathrow, where I met Dixon! It was really good to see him again 🙂 We spent two days in London. The first day our first stop was Buckingham Palace, walked through the Horse Guard and past Downing Street to get to Westminster, which was closed unfortunately. Then we went around the London Eye and walked along Queen’s Walk to Millennial, London and Tower bridges. The Tower of London was really cool. We saw the crows and the Crown Jewels and the Bloody Tower. There was one boy, as we were going through the room talking about the torture devices, who was so disappointed at the fact that there were only three types of device on display 😛

The next day (05/04) we went through the Science Museum and Natural History Museum. The Science Museum was really cool, but the Natural History Museum didn’t have quite as much as we were expecting – the fact that our feet were exhausted by this point wouldn’t have helped.

06/04
Bath was incredible – because all the buildings are made of bath stone, there is a uniformity to the look of the city. It does make it hard to tell the age of a building and wouldn’t be the place to live if you didn’t like bath stone, but it does look nice.

07/04
The Jane Austen House was first up. Wasn’t quite Dixon’s cup of tea but I enjoyed it and I don’t think he found it too painful 😛 Walking around Bath, just exploring, was really interesting. Looking at the architecture, looking around the craft shops, having read about it so often it was amazing to just be there!

20170407_195734
For all the amazing architecture, this is possibly my favourite part of Bath

In the afternoon we caught the train through to Exeter where I was able to start introducing Dixon to the people I have met here.

08/04
We went to Dartmoor for the day on Saturday which was really good! The first time I went to Dartmoor with Dad, I knew I wanted to show Dixon. It was cool seeing it in the different season, as well! One of my friends came along, too, which was a lot of fun. Spending the whole day in the sun I ended up getting burnt on the back of the neck. Mine was worse than the others because I had my back to the sun while we were eating lunch – it was a good enough burn for it to start peeling a few days later which made life fun.

I also may have accidentally knocked Dixon over by trying to hit his hat off… except I got his nose not his hat…. Don’t let anyone tell you that I have perfect depth perception. He was ok but the others found it hilarious – I couldn’t stop saying sorry for a good while! Thankfully it wasn’t while we were at the top of a Tor or it could have ended very badly.

On the Monday I got to be the one who was meeting new people – Dixon’s Aunt and Uncle. We caught the train from Exeter to Barnstaple and were picked up there. Cornwall was lovely! We went so many places – Tintagel, the Eden Project and Launston Steam Railway among them. The first place we went was possibly my favourite though – Trebarwith beach.

After Cornwall we went up to Carlisle.  But that must be written on another day!

Quite a lot has happened over the last two weeks and I’ve been pretty slack at writing it as it all happened so I’ll do my best to remember the main points!

The week following my last post was an exciting one with two cards and a package arriving in the mail to join the envelope my Dad left for me to open on my Birthday. The week went by quite quickly with its normal activities. I was starting to get nervous about the poster we had to do for our final assessment of one paper as we were still struggling to get results on Monday. Friday, however, turned that all around so after 6 hours in the lab I felt like it was actually possible for us to get the analysis done and poster made in a week. It’s always nice to end the week on a better footing than you started it on!

Saturdays (18th) walk was in Dartmoor area, Steps Bridge to Mortonhampsted. So many daffodils! The weather wasn’t bad, either, which helped make for a lovely day out. I almost didn’t make it on the walk because I went to the wrong spot to meet people and so only arrived at the right place once the bus was already leaving! Thankfully, despite the fact our group had basically filled up the bus entirely, the driver was kind enough to open the doors to let me on (in part due to the fact he had a red light out of the station so had to stop for that anyway!). Going down those country lanes in a bus almost as wide as the road, trying to keep your balance as you go around corners and over bumps in the road certainly stops trips from getting dull 😛

Sunday (19th) was a really good day 😀 Started, in a way, on Saturday night with a Skype to Dixon in which I was allowed to open the parcel that had arrived earlier in the week. It was a scarf from Litographs with the script for The Princess Bride on it in green. It is so cool 😀 😀 I still haven’t figured out if it has all the lines but it certainly has all the key ones I’ve looked for!
Sunday morning I Skyped Mum, Dad and my sister, with my brother joining in for part of it as well. Internet is an amazing invention and being so far from both homes, it really makes life easier! At church we were having a big event called New Day, which was up at Uni. We had hired out the biggest venue in town and were trying to pack it out with people, to celebrate new beginning and what that means. While we didn’t completely pack it out, there was still a good number of people in there – the room didn’t look empty! I helped pack up after, putting the room back to how it was before we went in, and unloading the equipment truck back at our normal venue. This meant I had to walk home past the fudge shop so I gave myself a birthday treat and bought some chocolate fudge. It was soooooo good. Well worth the wait!

Then I had about an hour and a half down time before going to have a birthday dinner with the family who hosted me when I first arrived in town. It was lovely to see them again, along with their son, his wife and their two kids, and friends from their time in Papua New Guinea. I hadn’t been sure what my birthday dinner would look like this year but they took care of it, even baking me a birthday cake, and it was amazing! I can’t properly describe just how special it felt to have that done for me – I still don’t feel like I have been here very long. After dinner, some girls from church and I went to see the new Beauty and the Beast. My favourite part was probably Belle’s (Emma’s) reaction to the library in the Beast’s castle. Seeing as it was basically how I would react in the same situation, it just seemed really real. I also had fun counting the number of references to other movies I could count. I can’t remember the number anymore but there were definitely Harry Potter, Sound of Music and others thrown in there. Some of them I might just be imagining but it was fun. One friend, on her facebook post to me, told me to make the most of having a 37 hour birthday (due to time zones) and I definitely did!

That week was the final week to get the poster I mentioned earlier, finished. Well, with a good effort on both our parts, my lab partner and I were able to hand it in a full 3 hours early! Seeing as five days before we handed it in, the poster didn’t exist, I feel like it was a very good effort! We were meant to be finding out if imaging a specific particle under certain conditions was possible. Our supervisor was wanting the answer to be yes but we hadn’t been able to get good enough images to get it clear enough. Our head supervisor never got back to us with final suggestions about our results so we just rolled with what we had – answering no, even if it isn’t what is wanted, is just as valid an answer as answering yes.  The featured image is a comparison between a real image of nanoparticles and gravel on the road that reminded me of the project. I’m seeing clusters of “nanoparticles” everywhere, now. Everywhere.

Wednesday last week, our Halls group joined with another hall group to hold a movie night. We watched Back to the Future which was a lot of fun – now I want to re watch the second and third again, though! This week we are going to the beach at Exmouth, so I’ll be back for the second time in a week! The first time, as you might be wondering, was on Saturday with the final OODS walk for the term. 11 miles, Sidmouth to Exmouth. It was a stunning day, bright sky, warm sun, cool breeze. And the hills along the coast didn’t even seem too bad! One friend was the designated Tail-end Charlie so I kept her company at the back, making sure we didn’t lose anyone along the way. I’m glad of the chance to get back to Exmouth as last time I didn’t get a chance to buy a postcard. Might be going too late today, as well, but it’ll mean I’m more confident to go back again myself, maybe when we have another unusually nice day. Also, I don’t have as many photos as sometimes because once more I forgot to charge my photo phone so it ran out of battery before lunch.

Final week of classes this week. Feels really odd, knowing it is week 11 already! Still ages until exams but seeing as Dixon arrives on Monday, I need to have a good plan for study to make sure I am actually ready for them 😛 My first one is on May 11 and he leaves April 23 so still plenty of time between to make sure I’m ready.

Today’s excitement is buying £49 worth of violin music! 5 books covering a range of music, including pop covers, Lindsey Stirling covers and Les Miserables pieces. One book is some fun duet pieces so that’ll be fun to play, either with Dixon or with other violin friends!